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Chippewa Falls man gets 'one more chance' after threatening to kill woman, children, family dog

A Chippewa Falls man who assaulted his girlfriend Jan. 29, then got a gun and threatened to kill her, her three children and the family dog, was ordered Monday to serve three years of probation.

Lorenzo Christopher, 43, pleaded no contest Monday in Chippewa County Court to possession of firearm by a felon and domestic abuse-strangulation and suffocation.

Chippewa County assistant district attorney Sheila Yohnk said Christopher must complete an anger management program and a domestic violence program.

“This easily could have been a prison case,” Yohnk told Judge James Isaacson. “At the victim’s request, we are giving Mr. Christopher one more chance.”

While on probation, Christopher cannot consume drugs, alcohol or enter taverns. He also must pay $1,136 in court costs. Any guns belonging to him will be forfeited. Christopher was given 70 days of jail credit.

Christopher had been held on a $1,000 cash bond since the incident occurred. However, Christopher will not be immediately released; a probation agent from Minnesota is scheduled to pick up Christopher today and bring him back to that state to deal with an issue there.

According to the criminal complaint, a juvenile called the Chippewa County dispatch center on Tuesday, saying that Christopher had a firearm and had threatened to use it against the juvenile’s mom. As an officer approached the house, he heard Christopher shout, ”I’ll kill you.” When the officer entered the house, he found Christopher sitting on a couch, heavily intoxicated.

The female victim said she and Christopher were arguing over a tax return when he began to choke and punch her. The officer saw marks on her neck, and noticed her left eye was swollen. She said that Christopher had thrown her on the floor. He got up, went into the bedroom and got a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and he threatened to kill her, her three children and the family dog.

Officers located three guns in the house. However, as a convicted felon, Christopher is not supposed to have any guns. Online court records show that Christopher was convicted of a felony-level drunk driving case in Eau Claire County in 2014.

Have you seen these people in Chippewa County? A list of those with active warrants out for their arrest
Have you seen these people in Chippewa County? A list of those with active warrants out for their arrest

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55th Annual Spring Art show award winners announced

Every piece of art may impact every individual in a unique way, making it difficult to say what works make the biggest splash. However, a longstanding Chippewa Valley art show show had three pieces which stood above the rest.

The 55th Annual Spring Art show at the Heyde Center for the Arts announced the winners of their three submission categories. The Holly Meier Award for best use of technique went to Jason Stabenow for his piece “Koi,” the Hugh Mandelert Award for best use of composition went to Jeffery Martell for his photograph “12 Steps,” and the Beryl Ouimette Award for best use of originality/creativity went to Jeff Nelson for this piece “Three Wise Men.”

Honorable mentions in each category included Denise Wenz’s “A Tall Poppy” in the Holly Meier Award for technique category, Beth Creekmore’s “Journey” in the Hugh Mandelert category for composition and Harlie Juedes’ “Poppie Reflection” in the Beryl Ouimette category for originality/creativity.

The art show, a collaboration between the Heyde Center and The Chippewa Herald, saw dozens of artists submit their artwork for display and consideration for the three awards. The three judges for the contest included Kay Brathol-Hostvet, an artist/art instructor, Debra Johnson, executive director of the Heyde Center for the Arts and Erin Brunke, multimedia consultant for Chippewa Valley Newspapers.

Johnson said the three winners were unanimously agreed upon by the three judges, with each piece being a strong and powerful work that evoked an impactful response from the judging panel.

“We went to pieces that all three of us were struck by and really had a lasting impression,” Johnson said. “The judges did not have a problem finding the same ones that really evoked emotions. They all were at the top for all of us.”

Stabenow’s multi-photograph/acrylic work “Koi” was a new artistic venture for him. Stabenow said the process included taking a few photographs which were then enhanced in Photoshop, printed on canvas and layered with acrylic paint to make the entire piece come together. He said photography is what he primarily delves in, but wanted to try something new to expand his artistic pallet.

“I wanted to create something that involved my photography, but was more on the artistic side,” Stabenow said. “I was trying something brand new that I’ve never shown before. The reaction was pretty outstanding. I was blown away by all the questions people were asking about it. It has inspired people to try something new and not be afraid to do something different.”

While many of the artists worked on one work for the Spring Art show, some surprised even themselves by what they submitted and how it was received.

Martell’s winning photograph “12 Steps” depicts an ominous staircase photographed in Elk Mound, but Martell did not initially think to submit the image for the competition. He said he had another piece in mind to submit for consideration, but ultimately “12 Steps,” won him over.

“I gave the piece that won to my son, he had it hanging in his house and the more I saw that picture the more it grew on me and the more I liked it,” Martell said. “Something about it just spoke to me and it became my favorite piece of mine even before it won the award at the show.”

Stabenow’s multi-photograph/acrylic work is primarily appealing to the eye, Martell’s photograph appeals to the imagination and Nelson’s mixed media work contributes to an entirely different artistic goal.

Nelson’s mixed media work “Three Wise Men” depicts three individuals breaking out of the normal allotted frame space and layers the imagery with messages correlating with the growing “Black Lives Matter Movement.” It challenges the mind and Nelson said he is thankful the judges recognized his piece, looking past the purely visual aspects and finding a deeper meaning within.

“I am very happy to have the judges’ recognition of the artistic value of today’s contemporary concerns,” Nelson said. “It reinforces the idea that it is viable to present today’s current problems as artistic subjects.”

The three winning works are representative of the high level of quality on display at the Spring Art Show. Nelson, who has been a member of the Valley Art Association for years, said the level of quality coming into the Heyde Center every spring has exponentially increased year-after-year.

“Over the years I’ve been involved I’ve seen a constant and considerable increase in the number and quality of art being presented,” Nelson said. “I think it is an exceptional show and you get a wonderful cross section of the artists and art that exists in our area. Being that it isn’t juried by someone else’s judgment, you get a real representative example of the spirit and creativity of the people in our area. It’s enlightening to see it and inspirational to others who wish they could, and think they might, in the future be a part of it.”

While the three winners have been recognized for the technical and artistic abilities, the dozens of artists who contributed a wide variety of captivating pieces show just how strong the Chippewa Falls art community is becoming.

The Spring Art show is open through Friday, April 19, and is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the show’s event page on the Heyde Center website.

Impoverished Pine Ridge reservation braces for more flooding

BISMARCK, N.D. — The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, one of the poorest areas in the nation, is bracing for another major winter storm and the prospect of renewed flooding that is also forecast to hit a wide swath of the Plains and Midwest just a month after the last weather blast.

March’s “bomb cyclone” — an unusual weather phenomenon in which air pressure drops rapidly and a storm strengthens explosively — dumped heavy snow on Pine Ridge that led to severe flooding. The high waters trapped hundreds of people in their homes, damaged or destroyed hundreds of miles of roads and dozens of buildings, disrupted water supplies to thousands and prompted the governor to send in the National Guard.

The prairie reservation is roughly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined and is home to nearly 20,000 people, many of whom live in deteriorating houses or cramped mobile homes. About half live in poverty, and the unemployment rate hovers around 75 percent. The tribe will be seeking help for flooding-related infrastructure repairs from the federal government as well as charities and nonprofits, but many private property owners are looking at the prospect of funding extensive repairs on their own.

“Damage is going to be in the hundreds of millions,” tribal spokesman Chase Iron Eyes said. “Things are beginning to dry out, but now there’s a huge blizzard predicted. On this reservation, it’s kind of a constant crisis the way we live here, and these disasters just put us in a perilous position.”

The storm moving east out of the northern Rockies Wednesday and Thursday could be similar to last month’s. It will pack heavy snow and strong winds and produce life-threatening conditions in parts of the Plains and Upper Midwest, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest-hit areas are expected to be from southeastern Wyoming through Nebraska and South Dakota into southern Minnesota. Snow is forecast to expand into parts of the Upper Great Lakes, with rain stretching from the central Plains east into the Middle Mississippi Valley and Western Ohio Valley.

The storm deemed “potentially historic” by the Weather Prediction Center brings the specter of renewed flooding to a part of the country where massive flooding over the past month has caused billions of dollars in damage.

Nebraska is not expecting a repeat of the catastrophic flooding it experienced last month because the ground is no longer frozen and ice has melted from the rivers, though there might be localized flooding across the state, according to weather service meteorologist Van DeWald in Omaha. The biggest threat will remain along the already swollen Missouri River, he said.

“It’s really just going to exacerbate that flooding and prolong it,” he said. “We’re probably looking at that surge hitting those Missouri River areas in Nebraska and Iowa three to five days after the storm.”

In northwest Missouri’s Holt County, where the raging Missouri River ravaged roads and highways, Emergency Management Director Tom Bullock is urging residents to be prepared to get out if another surge of water arrives after this week’s storm.

“We don’t have any protection,” he said. “Our levees are all broke.”

The storm crept slowly across Idaho and Montana on Tuesday, dumping rain and snow and prompting blizzard warnings for Wednesday and Thursday in parts of Wyoming and Colorado.

The storm might not be as bad as last month’s but “will be near record intensity for April for this area,” Colorado State Climatologist Russ Schumacher said.

Pine Ridge could see up to 15 inches of snow and winds gusting in excess of 50 mph (80.46 kph). Tribal officials are examining weak spots in the response to the March storm, particularly medical evacuations. Last month, three people who suffered medical problems died before ambulances slowed by floodwaters could get to them.

Henry Red Cloud owns a solar energy business and green energy training center that was heavily damaged by floodwaters against which it was not insured.

“A lot of stuff is near and dear to me — you can’t put a price tag on it,” he said. “But looking around here, I’m going to say, probably a quarter million dollars (in damage). We’re reaching out to any kind of support we can get.”

In the meantime, Red Cloud is hoping the nearby White Clay Creek stays in its banks after this week’s storm.

The new snowmelt will swell creeks and rivers in South Dakota, but likely not to the levels they rose last month due to the absence of a wet snowpack on the ground this time around, according to weather service hydrologist Mike Gillispie in Sioux Falls.

Rivers in Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin also are expected to rise again after the storm, and “The National Guard stands ready,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

The storm is not expected to add a lot of moisture to the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, where major flooding is occurring, according to weather service meteorologist Greg Gust in Grand Forks. It’s not causing big issues in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, but overland flooding is a problem in many rural areas.


BRANDON BERG, Chippewa Herald 

Chi-Hi's Dorian Anderson (left) and Ty Wiberg (right) took home a state boys wheelchair team championships last spring and are working hard on a repeat.